Linda Stahl, a Shelby resident, speaks during a public hearing about a proposed quarry on Fletcher Chapel Road. Stahl urged the group to get state legislators involved in fighting the project.
MEDINA – Binders full of studies and data, trying to address environmental concerns for a proposed quarry just north of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, did little to put residents at ease about the potential detriments of an industrial mine at the corner of Fletcher Chapel and Sour Springs roads.
Frontier Stone LLC has been working on the project for 10 years. It has submitted a Draft Environmental Impact Statement to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEIS was the focus of the public hearing Tuesday at Medina High School. About 100 people attended the hearing and all of the speakers opposed the project.
“This community has a moral obligation to protect this national treasure,” said John Huber, who lives near the proposed quarry. He said he is “absolutely opposed” to the quarry.
John Huber would be a neighbor of a new quarry in Shelby. He said it would be a detriment to a quiet community.
Frontier Stone LLC and its president, David Mahar, are proposing a limestone quarry on 215 acres, which the company wants to excavate on 172 acres in four phases over 75 years. The land is currently owned by Chester Zelazny and is mostly used for farming. It is zoned residential-agriculture. The Shelby Town Board would need to change the zoning to industrial for the project to move forward, if Frontier can satisfy the DEC.
Residents said the quarry would disrupt a quiet neighborhood, with potential of affecting the water table for residents that rely on well water.
Local resident Bob Hoffman, a retired Albion teacher, submitted 20 photos of woodpeckers, butterflies and other wildlife. He said he has spent hundreds of hours hiking and exploring the refuge.
“This is a special place,” Hoffman said. “This is a treasure.”
His wife, Barbara Hoffman, said the peace and quiet of the refuge is therapeutic to many in the community, including children with disabilities.
Bob Hoffman speaks during the public hearing that was attended by about 100 people at Medina High School.
Residents asked the DEC to give more analysis to sediment in ditches and creeks, dust particles in the air, ground vibrations and the impact on houses and the STAMP site in the Town of Alabama, which will be home to companies in nanotechnology and other high-tech manufacturing.
Carl Zenger of Lockport has been a long-time volunteer at the refuge, and is a past president of the Friends of Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. He said the refuge draws 35,000 to 50,000 visitors a year, making it an important tourism and economic resource for the community.
The refuge is an important nesting spot for bald eagles, short-eared owls and other wildlife that he said would be affected by truck traffic, blasting, noise, dust in air, light pollution, and contaminants in ditches and fields.
“Now is the time to terminate this proposal,” Zenger said.
Carl Zenger, past president of the Friends of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, said the refuge is a critical habitat for birds and other wildlife. The site is also an important attraction for the the community, providing a big economic impact.
Mike Fuller, the Shelby town highway superintendent, gave the briefest remarks of about 20 speakers in the two-hour hearing.
“I’m short and sweet,” Fuller said. “The stone quarry is too close to the wildlife refuge.”
Allen Robinson, a member of the Clarendon Town Board, said the town has issues with a quarry run by Hanson Aggregates. He urged the Shelby board to push for waterlines paid for by Frontier for residents in the project area, if the project moves forward. He said water discharges from the quarry into ditches should also be measured. (The project includes dewatering of the quarry area with a maximum water withdrawal for mine at 554,264 gallons per day, which would be discharged at the southwest corner of the site to an existing agricultural drainage ditch.)
“I feel sorry for all of you that have to go through this,” Robinson said. “Stick together and talk to your Town Board members. They still have to rezone the property.”
Wendi Pencille of Ryan Road is one of the leaders of Citizens for Shelby Preservation. She said the Lockport formation runs 200 miles. She said Frontier could find another mine site in a less environmentally sensitive area.
Wendi Pencille said there are other sites for the quarry without risk to a wildlife refuge.
She said it was “unconscionable” that a “massively invasive industrial use” would be considered for such a peaceful farming and residential community by a wildlife refuge.
Pencille said the DEC shouldn’t have let the application advance as far as it has given the presence of the wildlife refuge.
“The refuge is a delicate ecosystem and it deserves your protection,” Pencille said. “If you wouldn’t protect a sensitive wetlands ecosystem from the risks and effects of industrial mining, then what environment would the Department of Environmental Conservation actually deem worth conserving? Please tell us.”
Charles Malcomb, special counsel from the Hodgson Russ law firm, is representing the Town of Shelby with the project’s review. Malcombsaid the mining could disrupt the groundwater for residents in the area, including 255 students who live at the Iroquois Job Corps. They use about 36,000 to 40,000 gallons of groundwater a day.
“Disruption of their water source could force relocation,” Malcomb said.
He asked the DEC to insist on greater setbacks from the mining operation and neighboring properties, and for dust mitigation on trucks leaving the quarry site. Frontier should also be required to assist residents and the Job Corps if the quarry affects the water table, Malcomb said.
“The refuge is unique, fragile and a great environmental resource for the Town of Shelby and State of New York,” Malcomb said.
He asked for additional studies on the impact of dewatering on the refuge and the water table, and more investigation into pollutants, sediment and dust getting into the refuge because of the quarry.
Charles Malcomb, an attorney for the Town of Shelby, expresses concerns about the project. He told the DEC he was also disappointed the hearing on Tuesday was scheduled during the Shelby Town Board meeting, preventing the majority of the Town Board from attending the hearing.
The quarry would add 15 jobs to the community and there would be an average of 30 truck trips per hour, with 15 coming and going. The quarry would be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 6 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, with blasting from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during weekdays, said Scott Sheeley, regional permit administrator for the DEC.
Mike Donahue, vice president of the Orleans County Sportsmen’s Federation, and Mike Elam of Albion, president of the 12,000-member Finger Lakes Conservation Council, spoke against the project on Tuesday.
“The refuge provides necessary sanctuary to many birds for their survival,” Elam said. “The peace and serenity of the area will be destroyed by the blasting and trucks.”
The DEC will accept written comments from the public on the DEIS for the quarry until March 15. The DEC also has scheduled an issues conference to determine if issues need additional work and explanation from Frontier. The conference will be begin 10 a.m. on April 26 at Ridgeway Town Hall, 410 West Ave., Medina and will continue throughout the day and on April 27 if necessary.
For more on the project, click here to be directed to the DEC.
To see Frontier’s website on the project, click here.